Menstrual Hygiene Day 2021 is here which is on May 28 and what we want to take up is a clearer picture on what happens if you do not maintain proper menstrual hygiene. There are several infections we women can fall prey to and they are rather painful so should not be taken lightly. 

Dr Mukesh Gupta, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Le Nest Hospital Malad, Mumbai, told HerZindagi that "During menstruation, a woman can be predisposed to infections due to changes in the pH levels in the vagina. The elevated pH levels disturb the balance of naturally existing vaginal flora i.e. good bacteria like lactobacilli and yeast, potentially increasing the risk of infections."

"Poor hygiene methods include incorrect washing techniques, inappropriate use of absorbent material and delayed changing and disposing of sanitary napkins, tampons, etc. While keeping clean is essential, avoid excessive washing or douching during menses that further disturbs the pH balance.

"Another point to be noted is to avoid moisture around private parts that becomes a breeding ground for infections. In case of use of reusable absorbent materials and the undergarments worn during periods, both must be clean, dried in the sun and changed regularly. Fungal and bacterial infections, urinary tract infections (UTIs), sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), rashes or abrasions and in some cases, increased susceptibility to cervical cancer in the long run are some of the ill-effects of poor menstrual hygiene." he added.

To throw a better light on the same, Dr Danny Laliwala, Consultant, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre Mumbai, has explained what truly happems and what we must do to save ourselves. 

Dr Laliwala told HerZindagi that "maintaining menstrual hygiene is an important issue, amongst all women, irrespective of age - young adolescent girls, women of reproductive age and in menopausal women. Menstrual hygiene management is defined as "women using a clean menstrual management material to absorb or collect menstrual blood that can be changed in privacy as often as necessary during the menstrual period, using soap and water for washing the parts as required and having access to facilities to get rid of used menstrual management materials".

"Women are not free, still today in many parts of our country, to talk about menstruation and how to keep their parts clean during menstruation."

Methods

There are various methods used by women during menstruation: cloth, sanitary pads, sanitary napkins, tampons, menstrual cups.

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  • Sanitary cloths are used by women belonging to low socio-economic groups. These need to be washed regularly and then dried. Clean, soft, dry, absorbable cloths are preferred.
  • Sanitary napkins need to be changed every 4 to 6 hours, depending upon the soakage. They need to be properly disposed or may lead to transmission of infections. It is better to wrap them in newspapers to dispose them.
  • Tampons are also used. They are inserted inside the vagina and there are strings attached to them, which on pulling can be removed. Care needs to be taken to remove them from time to time, or else can lead to toxic shock syndrome.
  • Menstrual cups usually made of silicone are nowadays used by many urban women. It not only decreases the risks of contact dermatitis (as seen by napkins) but can also quantify the amount of blood loss. Also, it can be used repeatedly over years, by just washing and boiling the cup.

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Common Infections Caused Due To Poor Menstrual Hygiene

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  • Irritation of the skin due to pads causes discomfort and dermatitis, leading to painful blisters in the areas. These can cause bacterial and fungal infections.
  • Candidiasis is a fungal infection which is most commonly seen in women. This fungus grows in the presence of moisture. So, after cleansing the private parts, one has to be sure to leave these areas dry. This infection can lead to itching and white curdy discharge from the vagina. Anti-fungal pessaries are usually beneficial for such infections. In severe cases, oral medications may be prescribed.

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  • Bacterial vaginosis is another common infection seen, this one though caused by a bacteria. Women complain of white discharge with a fishy odour. A course of pessaries along with oral antibiotics usually cures these women.
  • It is not uncommon to find mixed bacterial and fungal infections. Nowadays, we have a combination of anti-bacterial and anti-fungal pessaries available, which are quite beneficial.
  • Maintaining menstrual hygiene is important as these infections might ascend through the cervix and affect the fallopian tubes, causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which may lead to Infertility.
  • Infection can spread via the urethra leading to urinary tract infections (UTI), which may lead to burning urination, painful urination and frequency of urination especially at night.

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Tips To Maintain Good Hygiene

  • Change your napkin/cup/tampon frequently throughout the day. One can use a feminine hygiene wash every time (at least 2-3 times a day)
  • After wash, keep the area dry.
  • All this will help maintain menstrual hygiene and prevent infections.

This 28th May, 2021, World Menstrual Hygiene day, let us all pledge to maintain the strictest menstrual hygiene ourselves and to spread awareness amongst others.

Stay tuned to HerZindagi for more on menstrual hygiene with expert inputs.